As the final homestand of the regular season approaches, the Plattsburgh State baseball team will take the field believing it has nothing to lose and everything to gain.

The Cardinals (4-25, 1-11 SUNYAC) will welcome Oneonta to Chip Cummings Field this weekend for a three-game series with the first matchup set for today at 3 p.m. followed by a doubleheader tomorrow beginning at noon.

PSUC knows it has not matched the expectations set when the season began, but PSUC assistant coach Brian Burns said it’s important for the Cards to move forward and not be concerned about prior games if they want to succeed.

“Our guys can’t worry about the past,” Burns said. “They have to come out with the attitude that they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. The team needs to understand that when we play like we have nothing to lose, we are better and more relaxed.”

This mindset stems from the Cards’ recent road trip to play No. 1 Cortland last weekend. While PSUC was unable to tally any victories during the three-game series, Burns said the Cards played with a loose mentality and noted how using this mindset helped the squad.

In last weekend’s matchups against the nation’s top-ranked team, PSUC saw its offense excel, tallying 29 hits and 10 runs over a three-game span, which the Cards view as a key positive.
Junior shortstop T.J. Montalbano said the Cards’ approach to the series helped them calm down and concentrate.

“We just played freely and had nothing to prove to anybody,” Montalbano said. “Everyone knew going into the games that Cortland was a strong team, so we just played free and relaxed and played baseball.”

Even though PSUC couldn’t secure a win, the recent play has given the team confidence moving forward as the 2016 season continues.

“You never want to look at a loss and say, ‘Hey, we are OK with that,’ but we didn’t play bad this weekend,” Burns said. “If we played the way we did last weekend against the rest of our conference, we would have won the majority of our games.”

The Cards will look to expand upon their recent success during the weekend series against Oneonta, and the team will also be honoring its seniors, as it’s their last weekend playing in front of the home crowd.

Burns said the coaching staff wants the seniors to enjoy their last series at home. As a PSUC alumni, having played four seasons of baseball as a pitcher for the Cardinals, he knows leaving the game is not easy, and he acknowledged it’s challenging for players to realize the end of their college career is near.

“It never really hits you like a ton of bricks, where you say, ‘Hey, this is my last game,’” Burns said. “It always hits you like a little pin prick 1,000 times over the next year, where you wake up and say, ‘I don’t have any baseball today.’”

This season’s senior class, which includes Eric Rock, Fumiya Nakano, Andrew Kramer, Alex Rodriguez, Ross Levinson and Scott Orr, has meant a lot to the rest of the team, and the players feel motivated to make the weekend special for them.

“We want to give the seniors a great last weekend at home and show them that we care about this season,” Montalbano said. “We want to end on a good note.”

Freshman pitcher Matt Fox said the senior class has done an excellent job this year working with the younger team members and helping them during the season.

“The older guys do a really good job just trying to calm us down and getting us to play more relaxed because that is the only way you can play baseball,” Fox said.

While one of Cards’ main objectives this weekend is to compete for the seniors, Fox said another key element will be to approach the Oneonta series with a strong-working mentality and believe they can compete against any team.

“We need to keep playing hard,” Fox said. “Everyone has to try and do their job. We are pretty close as a team, so as long as we keep getting good quality at-bats, get guys on base, have timely hitting and have our pitchers put up zeros, we will be pretty set.”

Email Joey LaFranca at sports@cardinalpointsonline.com

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